Missouri 66, Stetson 45
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Last season, Kalen Grimes was a big body who had trouble scoring and rebounding. So far this season, he’s giving Missouri a big game to match.
Grimes posted his second straight double-double off a strong first half and Matt Lawrence scored all but two of his 13 points in the second half, helping the Tigers rally for a 66-45 victory over Stetson in the John Thompson Foundation Classic on Sunday.
Grimes, who averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds last season, was named the tournament MVP. The 6-9 junior is most proud of clearing the glass for the undersized, running Tigers, after entering the season with no double-doubles.
“New team, new identity,” Grimes said. “It’s just something I’ve got my mindset on. I’m going out every game and getting some rebounds, that’s my main focus.”
Grimes had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots for Missouri (3-0), which also beat North Carolina A&T and Army in the three-day, round-robin event. The school is 3-0 for the first time since 2003-04, although there were struggles in each of the last two games.
The Tigers trailed for the first time this season, surrendering the first four points of the game, falling behind by four later in the first half and trailing 27-25 at the break. Stetson took advantage of Missouri’s 1-for-9 shooting from 3-point range, a strength in the Tigers’ first two games, and overall 37 percent numbers.
At halftime, Grimes said new coach Mike Anderson threatened to make the players practice on Monday, a day off, if they didn’t pick it up.
“It’s kind of hard playing back-to-back games,” Lawrence said. “Coach kind of lit a fire under us in the locker room.
“We came out, got some stops, hit some big shots.”
Missouri outscored Stetson (1-2) 41-18 in the second half, finishing 6-for-19 on 3-pointers and getting eight assists from Jason Horton. The Hatters were held to 30 percent shooting.
“You hold a team to 18 points in the second half, that’s pretty strong,” Anderson said. “I don’t care who you’re playing.”
Lawrence hit a pair of 3-pointers, his first baskets of the game, in a 10-2 run that put Missouri ahead 38-29 with 13:32 to go. The first 3-pointer ended a run of nine straight misses from long range by Missouri, 23-for-45 in its first two games.
Stetson got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
“They ramped it up a bit,” coach Derek Waugh said. “I’m sure Mike got after them in the locker room and they played good position defense.
“I don’t know if we got any putbacks, but I don’t remember many.”
Garfield Blair had 10 points and seven rebounds for Stetson, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic-Sun Conference. Eric Diaz and Gabe McMillen, who each averaged 17.5 points the first two games, were held to four points apiece.
Waugh said Missouri’s pressure defense had an effect, especially for a team playing its third game in three days.
“They maybe wore us down a little more mentally than physically, facing that pressure all the time, all the time, all the time,” Waugh said. “We maybe lost our focus a little bit.”
Stetson, which was 12-for-24 from 3-point range on Saturday in a victory over North Carolina A&T, was 2-for-16 against Missouri.
The finale drew a crowd of 4,634, about one-third of capacity at the Mizzou Arena. Missouri is rebuilding under Anderson after Quin Snyder resigned last February.
The last Missouri coach to win his first three games was Wilber Stalcup in 1946-47.